Friday, May 24, 2024

White House says Biden ‘doesn’t need a cognitive test’  as prez says docs ‘think I look too young’ 

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WASHINGTON — President Biden “doesn’t need a cognitive test,” the White House’s top spokesperson said Wednesday after the chief executive joked that his doctors “think I look too young” upon his return from his annual physical.

“There is nothing different than last year,” the 81-year-old president said at an afternoon event focused on policing and crime as he brushed off public concern about his age as he seeks a second term.

“Everything’s great,” Biden added.

The more than two-hour-long medical appointment was conducted by a team of 20 doctors who determined the president is so mentally sound that no test was needed, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at the regular White House briefing.

“The president doesn’t need a cognitive test. That is not my assessment, that is the assessment of the president’s doctor, that is also the assessment of his neurologist,” Jean-Pierre said.

“He passes a cognitive test every day — every day — as he moves from one topic to another topic, understanding the granular level of these topics. You saw him talking about fighting crime today, tomorrow’s he’s going to the border,” she added.

Joe Biden departs the White House for Walter Reed Medical Center on Wednesday morning. AFP via Getty Images
Biden departs Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following a physical, on Wednesday. AP

In public remarks this month, Biden on three occasions claimed to have conversed recently with long-retired and dead leaders of Germany and France. He compounded the errors by confusing the leaders of Mexico and Egypt at a bellicose press conference after denying that he’s suffering cognitive decline.

Special counsel Robert Hur reignited questions about Biden’s mental fitness in a blistering report released Feb. 8 that said Biden should not face criminal charges for decades of allegedly mishandling classified records in part because no jury would convict him due to perceived senility.

Hur wrote in his report that his team “uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency” but that “Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Biden’s physical was not announced in advance, nor was it on the presidential schedule given a day ahead of time to the White House press corps — and only became public when Biden shouted to reporters on the White House lawn, “I’m going to Walter Reed to get my physical” Wednesday morning.

In the afternoon, presidential physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor released a six-page report following Biden’s appointment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

The report contained little new information, but said Biden “did note some increased left hip discomfort with recent activity” as the result of “mild arthritic changes” that are “contributing to his stiffened gait,” which the report says “remains stiff, but has not worsened since last year.”

The written assessment made passing mention of cognition-adjacent evaluations. 

“An extremely detailed neurologic exam was again reassuring in that there were no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or ascending lateral sclerosis, nor are there any signs of cervical myelopathy,” O’Connor wrote.

“The exam did again support a finding of peripheral neuropathy in both feet. No motor weakness was detected.”

Biden is the oldest-ever sitting president, and in a break from historical precedent, O’Connor has never been allowed to take journalists’ questions on his health.

Biden boards Marine One heading to Walter Reed. REUTERS

Presidential doctors generally address the press in times of medical crises, but on some notable occasions they have fielded questions in the White House briefing room after performing physical exams.

Then-President Gerald Ford’s physician Dr. William Lukash held a press conference in 1976 to describe in eye-popping detail his evaluation of the commander-in-chief — at one point disclosing that Ford had previously had surgery for hemorrhoids but passed an anal proctoscopy.

Then-President Donald Trump’s physician Dr. Ronny Jackson — now a Texas Republican congressman — gave a more than hour-long briefing on Trump’s health in 2018, though he turned heads by saying at one point that “if [Trump] had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old.”

Marine One arrives at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 28, 2024. AFP via Getty Images
Joe Biden arrives at Walter Reed on Wednesday. Chris Kleponis/UPI/Shutterstock

Polls show that voters are more concerned about Biden’s age than they are about that of Trump, 77.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll this month found that 86% of US adults said Biden is too old for another term while 59% said that both Biden and Trump are too old.

A New York Times poll in November found 71% of swing-state voters say Biden is “too old to be an effective president” compared to 39% who said the same of Trump.

A Wall Street Journal poll released in September found that 73% of registered voters believed Biden was too old, versus 47% who said so of Trump.

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